by Todd Anderson
Coming off Tuesday's 3-2 win over the New York Rangers, the Ottawa Senators' focus switches to another New York-based team tonight when they host the Islanders at Scotiabank Place. The Senators have won the last six meetings against the Islanders but they're not taking anything for granted tonight.
Already a team credited for having a solid work ethic, the Islanders' playoff fortunes were bolstered by the addition of former Edmonton Oiler Ryan Smyth at the trade deadline. The Senators, who hosted Smyth and the Oilers just over three weeks ago, know what the star power forward brings to the table.
"He adds offence and he's one of the best players in the league in front of the net," Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson says. "(The Islanders) have improved over the last few years, they're a good team."
Islanders starting goaltender Rick DiPietro, who left the ice early after a collision with forward Steve Bégin during Tuesday's 5-3 loss to Montreal, has been listed as a game-time decision on the Islanders' official website. Senators head coach Bryan Murray spoke about one aspect of the game that might change for Ottawa if DiPietro is able to play.
"You don't want the puck to go to Rick. (DiPietro and Martin Brodeur) are two of the best puck-handling goaltenders in the league. When you chip the puck in, you can't let it go around the back of the net. You try to put it in the zone that he's not allowed to go touch it and maybe get a forecheck as a result."
While Murray shared some of his insight concerning his team's battle for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with the Pittsburgh Penguins - who moved one point ahead of the Senators by beating the New Jersey Devils 3-0 last night - he stressed the focus should be on tonight's opponent.
"We're not worried about anybody else. We just have to play as well as we can. (Pittsburgh) is an outstanding hockey team and they're getting better every night. We can't worry about them. I can make comments about them but the (Senators) players just have to play their game and do what they can do and worry about the New York Islanders tonight."